When a person is accused of committing a drug-related crime in California, the severity of the crime will determine if his or her case is heard in criminal court or drug court. Drug court only hears specific cases. So, which kinds of drug crime cases are sent to this alternative court?
Certain felony and misdemeanor cases may be heard in drug court. The alleged offenses must be considered non-violent in nature, and the accused must be drug-users. Why? This is a specific program that focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Drug court depends on state funding, which means that the number of people that can access the program may be limited if funding ever becomes an issue.
When a case is sent to drug court, the accused agrees to take part in all aspects of the offered rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation program includes frequent drug testing, counseling, and educational and work opportunities -- among other incentives. The minimum length of a drug court-ordered program is 18 months. Failing to comply with any aspect of the rehab program could result in a case being sent back to criminal court for prosecution.
Facing drug charges is never an easy thing, as the penalties associated with a conviction can be rather harsh. Those residing in California who face charges in drug crime cases that fit the criteria to be heard in drug court could likely benefit from everything the program has to offer. Experienced criminal defense attorneys can help those facing drug charges in determining which route is better for their circumstances: fighting their cases in criminal court or seeking alternative sentencing in drug court.
Source: sdcourt.ca.gov, "Drug Court", Accessed on Jan. 20, 2016